Venomous Maximus is a heavy lift as band names go. You can’t really imagine a nebbish indie-rock band — say, the Shins — lugging it around. But a Houston four-piece shoulders not just that big name but also songs that are weighty as an anvil. A variety of labels have been foisted upon Venomous Maximus since its formation two years ago: metal, doom and stoner rock the most common among them. But new album “Beg Upon the Light” doesn’t seem easily relegated to any of them. It reminds more of unfussy classic rock akin to Black Sabbath, with a lyrical emphasis on the unknown. It’s a monster of an album that relents only on occasion for later dramatic effect. Singer/guitarist Gregg Higgins, guitarist Christian Larson, bassist Trevi Biles and drummer Bongo (just Bongo) will power through the new songs Saturday at Fitzgerald’s.
Q: “Metal” and “doom” seem to come up a lot with you guys. But the sound seems less about speed to me. It’s more Sabbath than Slayer.
Larson: Yeah, we do get called “doom” all the time. I don’t know, I think of doom as being super slow. There are so many labels, especially in metal now. It’s out of control. But we do like that old-style rock.
Higgins: We definitely don’t put any of that out there. We don’t say we’re a doom band or any of that stuff. I think people associate it with doom because of the darkness of the artwork. But Sabbath wasn’t a doom band or a metal band. They were a (expletive) rock ’n’ roll band. Those labels didn’t really start until the ’80s.
Q: Lyrically, the album’s not really concerned about earthly things. It seems more interested in the sort of mystical stuff we don’t know.
Higgins: That’s exactly what it’s about. Because there are, like, three stages of thought. It can be environmental, about the rock. And I mean the planet — the rock. And I’m sick of talking about this planet. I’m (expletive) sick of it. I’m tired of politics, I don’t want to hear about any of that (expletive) any more. The second one is a spiritual plane; you can talk about that stuff. And then there’s this cosmic thing — going to other rocks. So I don’t want to hear about girls unless it’s some spirit entity that came here from thousands of light-years away. And it’s not (expletive) either. It’s stuff you go through. I grew up in Victoria. The further south you go, the scarier it gets. Especially in those small towns, boy. That’s all there.
Q: That reminds me a little of what happened with the West Memphis Three.
Higgins: It’s crazy you bring up the West Memphis Three, because that’s something I hold real close to me. I remember in the ’90s watching that and thinking, “(Expletive), this could happen to me.” I was out in the country listening to that kind of music. I watched what happened to them, and it seemed like it could be my reality, too, dude.
Q: Did the name predate the band? I think I read it was the name of an old Sailor Jerry tattoo. It’s a nice fit.
Higgins: Yeah, he made that tattoo for the one guy who’s the craziest (expletive) out of a group. Who I think of is Animal Mother from “Full Metal Jacket” or Bunny ... was that the Kevin Dillon character from “Platoon”? It’s always the guy who’s given up on the idea of home and all that. The guy who thinks, “I’m here and I gotta deal with this.” And they go too far. That would’ve been the Venomous Maximus. He made up that tattoo for that specific guy. I remember being in the tattoo shop and saying, “Man, the next band I start is gonna be called Venomous Maximus!” And I want the band to be that kind of band compared to other bands playing.
Q: I don’t mean it in a commercially crass way, but it sounds like you’re almost as interested in creating a great brand as a band. Something where fans buy into it beyond just liking the songs.
Higgins: Man, you got it 100 percent right. That’s exactly what it was when I started talking about doing this. I thought, “I’m gonna do this (expletive) like KISS, like the Misfits. It’s gonna be a (expletive) brand. You’re gonna be able to put this logo on anything. I remember this band called Deadguy from the ’90s. They had a whole logo and look. After they broke up, word got around that they’d sold their name to this Japanese clothing label. I just thought that was (expletive) great. It’s amazing: They had something so good that somebody had to buy it. I like the idea that if this band doesn’t work out, I can still sell my (expletive).
Q: I like the idea of a band having a song title that’s also the band’s name. Was there any apprehension in having a song called “Venomous Maximus”?
Higgins: You have to do that. You have to do that. What else do I gotta say? There are rules to this old-school formula. And one of those rules is you have to have a song that is also the name of the band.
Larson: We all thought it was pretty rad. A lot of stuff we do is older stuff: the sound, the artwork, everything. We basically don’t listen to new stuff. That seemed like something an old metal band might do.
Q: Gregg’s laughter has an eerie effect. There seems to be a dearth of laughter on heavy rock albums.
Larson: Yeah, it’s definitely something nobody does anymore. Maybe some Ozzy stuff, but that’s about it.
Higgins: It’s kind of natural, too. The laughter has something to do with what I’m saying right there. You don’t just start laughing. It’s kind of a thing I’ll do live. I’ll get into a part singing and get really (ticked) off, man. And things like that come out. There’s other stuff like that I’m working on. I want to find some places to whistle. Coughing. Any sound effect I can get.
Q: Some people want their singing to very much represent them. Others seem to view it as acting. Does it feel like getting into each character to you?
Higgins: No. No. Not at all to me. One thing I had in my head when we were getting all this stuff together. I’d go to shows and think, “How come this guy isn’t talking to me? I’m right here. I paid money. I’m here. But you’re not looking at me, so who are you talking to?” I knew when I got my chance I was going to look at people and talk to them. So go back and listen to these songs and you’ll know for sure it’s like, “Yeah, I’m (expletive) singing this straight to you.” That’s one of the reasons for the real clean singing. I want people to understand me."
Venomous Maximus album release show
With Mothership, Hamamatsu Tom and the Drink Tickets
When: doors at 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Fitzgerald’s, 2706 White Oak, Tickets: $10